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Q&A WITH LORI HARDER ON THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRIBE: “I HAD THESE GOALS, I HAD THIS FAMILY, I HAD THIS HUSBAND, BUT I ALSO FELT INCREDIBLY LONELY”

The "A Tribe Called Bliss" author talks to VINAZINE about showing up for your friends, real ways to connect with your girl gang and more!

To her 205K followers on Instagram, all-around #bossbabe Lori Harder is serious life goals. The “A Tribe Called Bliss” author, fitness world champion, podcast host and model (just to list a few) recently caught up with VINAZINE for some major vina talk. 🥂 Read on!

Q: Tell us about your inspiration to write “A Tribe Called Bliss.” What made you want to sit down and publish a book?
Lori: I’m from a really small town in upper Michigan [Marquette], and I was raised in a more restrictive religion, so I was homeschooled through high school. I had a very small tribe of people that I got to hang out with, and grew up with a family who also really struggled with their weight. My family was amazing and loving, but growing up I always heard that ‘life was hard and we’re always gonna struggle, and we have fat genetics.’ So when you live in that bubble, your belief systems only go as far as the people you’re surrounded with.

For me, being in such a small town and being so isolated, it was like I knew that I had these dreams; I always, always knew that I had something inside of me that just was bigger than where I was at, but I didn’t think anything was possible because I was never outside of that small bubble.

When I was a teenager, I ended up making friends with this girl who was from another congregation who was three hours away from me. Because she was in my religion, I was allowed to hang out with her, but because she was so far away, I got to spend a week at her house. So I went, and her family was SO opposite of mine. They were into health and fitness, they ate really well, they owned a family business, they took pride in making money. Their congregation was even less restrictive because it was closer to a bigger city, and within that week, it was the first time ever that I went home and I had lost weight.

Going home and actually losing weight while having fun,  I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe this isn’t genetics.’ This literally was a complete lifestyle change. So after that, it was like my eyes were completely open to, ‘Holy crap, what we’re surrounded by is what we believe.’ At a super young age, I became really aware of that.

There’s a transition period between our different tribes, and sometimes the hardest thing that we have to do is leave or transcend [to a new tribe]. So my book really talks about that path because for me, I had to walk that transitional path alone into my 20s and 30s until I realized, Wait a minute, I don’t have to do this alone, I can actually create tribes for where I’m going based on really getting into the rooms that already scare me, or reaching out to people who are doing what I wanna do. So that’s where the book came from.

Q: Why do you think women struggle with finding their tribe?
Lori: There’s so many reasons because a lot of times, we are struggling to find ourselves. I think that we’re still really stuck on our old beliefs and believing that in order for people to like us that we have to “people please.” I think it’s a lot of people pleasing, and that if we disappoint people, we won’t be loved, but in order to become fully us, it’s gonna take a lot of disappointing people. Because it’s gonna take a lot of showing up in a lot of different ways than we used to show up as, and sometimes rocking the boat. And I think that in our 20s and 30s, we’re so afraid of not being loved and liked because we’re not yet fully in love with ourselves since we don’t even know who that is yet. I think that’s a huge challenge for people.

Q: As you were going through all of this, when did you realize how important having a tribe is?
Lori: I knew in my late 20s, because I started getting really, really lonely no matter what I was accomplishing; I learned really quickly that accomplishment felt like the love and attention that I was seeking all through my childhood and teenage years that I did not get. So, of course, I went on this journey in my mid to late 20s and even early 30s where I was just addicted to accomplishment. It wasn’t really until my early 30s where I had achieved so many things that I wanted to achieve: I was in the fitness world, I had gotten 10 different magazine covers that I thought would equal happiness because I always wanted to be a mentor for people. I had opened a gym at that point, I had a network marketing business that was making seven figures annually…I literally reached all of these insane dreams, and I was so lonely. I was so incredibly lonely and my anxiety had come back, and I felt like, if this is it, then this is not what I pictured this dream life being about. And there were other things I wanted to accomplish, but I also felt like, man, all I was doing the whole time was pushing this boulder uphill and it wasn’t fun.

I just pictured it being so much more enjoyable than what it was. Shouldn’t reaching your dreams be more fun? So that was the point for me when I had met a couple of other women who were kind of in the same boat — experienced a lot of success in their life but were feeling like they wanted to be held more accountable, wanted to connect, and wanted this to be more fun. They also wanted to just collaborate and do it together. And that was it. After that point, after meeting them, that’s really where the book opened up and everything began.

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Courtesy of Lori Harder Instagram

Q: How did you meet them?
Lori: One of the women, the first one, she and I had connected online. She was also in kind of the fitness world that I was in, and she just reached out randomly. We jumped on the phone – our thinking was, ‘OK, let’s connect; let’s see what we have in common.” And the conversation turned into a conversation about how we had both read Jack Canfield’s book that talked about masterminding. So we asked each other, do you want to start a mastermind but not have it be a traditional mastermind? What if we keep the structure and the agreement, and we make up our own agreement more around sisterhood and holding each other accountable and staying in this for the long run, and what would that look like?

So we kind of played with it and we realized we needed another person. She said, ‘Oh, well I met this woman in Costa Rica. Would you be open to masterminding or doing this with another woman that you don’t know?’ And I told her, ‘Absolutely, because I really don’t know you either so let’s just go for it!’ And from that day, we have met almost now for five years every other week for one hour, and it has been — I can trace back every powerful thing in my life to either having them help me think of it, me break through something, picking up the pieces after feeling like I’m not gonna be able to get back up again — it’s literally why I wrote the book. No matter what comes my way, I have a place to process it and I have a place to get refilled back up again, and a place where I can not only be heard, but also help people with what they’re going through. And it’s not a disposable relationship to us; we are so committed to it.

Q: What is your best tribe date idea? Where do you and your tribe like to hang out
Lori: Oh man, you know what, there’s some fun stuff that I think people can do as a tribe. I think it’s always fun to go to somebody’s home or to go somewhere where you can get a quiet spot. And then to be able to go around to each person and have each person for anywhere from a minute or two minutes, to be able to share something such as the beauty that they see in that person. So that’s a really cool thing that I love to do with my tribe if we haven’t seen each other in a while, or if we wanna get reconnected. Kind of going around the group and saying, ‘Hey, the beauty I see in you, or something that I’ve seen in you lately is…” and just filling that person up, because I don’t think that we get that enough in the world or from each other. It’s a really cool thing to do around cocktails, tea, or around the fire.

Q: We’re all about tribes over here at VINA! So friendship means putting in the work, right? It’s a reason so many women struggle with making IRL connections.
Lori: Yes, because we don’t have the skills, and because we’re not willing to do the hard stuff that it takes to make an actual friend. The reason why friends stay together is because they either have something that keeps them tied together—school, family, a mutual friend in common, something like that that.If you don’t have that, it means that you have to do the work, and you have to make an actual commitment, show up, and decide to be with somebody through the hard stuff.

I think that we forget that relationships are not disposable because we live in this world where we forget that good or great relationships take tough conversations. And the second that conflict comes up, we don’t know how to handle it, so we just get rid of it. So we’re avoiding everything because we don’t wanna do the hard stuff. And it’s the only place from which the good stuff comes. It’s so much like dating; it’s crazy because more people are inspired to date because we want a partner, so we’re willing to fight with this person over and over, whereas with a friend, we’re like, ‘Nope, see ya!’

Q: So true. What was your hardest friendship struggle that you had to go through?

Lori: I will say that a lot of my old habits are fear of abandonment, so I have a tendency to want to sabotage the relationship before I think it’s going to sabotage me, or before I think something’s going to happen. So in friendships, that’s something that I noticed I’d do — because when I was younger I would either get left out a lot, or maybe not invited into the groups that I wanted to be in — so if I start feeling like I’m not valuable or adding value, I’ll tend to notice.

Even in my mastermind, I’ll notice that I’ll start feeling kind of weird, or like I’m not as valuable, or I’ll stop texting as much and then when I notice that, I’ll bring it up. That’s a really powerful thing that I’ve learned, is that I bring up my old issues and say that I’m feeling them so that I can actually process them, and they can talk to me about them. I’ll be in the group and be like, ‘Hey guys, I’ve actually been feeling like maybe I’m not adding as much value recently like, is there a way I can add value, or can we just chat about this?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh my God are you kidding, I would never think that!” And it’s just the importance of talking about how you’re feeling and processing it. I think as women, that’s the most important thing.

Q: It seems like our schedules are so demanding, it’s a miracle if you even eat dinner these days. How and why should women make time for friends?
Lori: When you are creating an intentional relationship, you will get more value out of the relationship than you will feel like it’s depleting you or making you feel overwhelmed. Because when we’re going into something and we’re saying we’re too busy for a relationship, it’s because we have an idea of what the relationship is gonna look like and how it’s gonna feel. So, if I told a woman, ‘OK well, this relationship is only gonna be for an hour every other week, or once a month, but it’s gonna add so much value to you and it’s gonna feel like you have someone in your court. Are you open to that?’ A majority of women would say yes. My book was made to create really fast, deep connections in a small amount of time by learning how to communicate more effectively, and to give better questions so that you’re getting better answers quicker.

Because that’s exactly how I felt. I was like, ‘I don’t have time for friends.’ I had these goals, I had this family, I had this husband … but I also felt incredibly lonely. So, it’s learning how to create intentional relationships while actually saying your expectations, and what you’re willing to commit to, and what you’re not. And letting it be OK if it’s not a lot. It’s really learning that it’s not your work to please other people, or if you disappoint people. It’s giving yourself permission to disappoint people and create really intentional relationships.

Q: The Hey! VINA app is a great place for women to make friends. Where else do you recommend?
Lori: I always say go for the low-hanging fruit in your life. Kind of going on the path of least resistance first by saying, ‘Where do you want the most support in your life, and what feels natural for you?’ So for me, it’s fitness. I want the most support around a fitness community, and I also feel that’s the most natural spot for me. So I’m gonna go to a Soul Cycle…and I’m gonna go enough. You can’t just go and say, ‘Hi! This is my first class, let’s be friends.’ That’s being weird — don’t do that. You have to go enough to actually be familiar with people, or say, ‘Hey, would you ever wanna grab coffee for 20 minutes, and honestly, this doesn’t have to happen all the time, we could do this once a month or whatever this looks like.’ People need to know the expectation upfront.

Q: What do you think is the #1 most important message that you want readers to take away from your book?
Lori: Oh man, there are so many good ones! But honestly, in making friendships and reaching your highest potential, I think that you just have to not take anything personally and be so willing to reach out constantly. I think that the more that you understand that everyone, especially in times like right now, either has an opinion or can take something personally, and it’s never about you. The more that you can just say, ‘I still love me and I’m gonna keep going,’ that’s the most powerful thing you can do. It’s just knowing who you are.Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 10.25.04 PM

Q: Definitely. Over at VINA, we’re loving Rachel Hollis! When we interviewed her for VINAZINE, she gave some great advice about ignoring the haters and finding your people. You must love her too because she was on your podcast recently! Are you two new vinas?
Lori: She’s amazing! I actually just had dinner with her two weeks ago when we were on a book tour. Yeah, she’s really incredible. I wouldn’t say that I have a super awesome relationship with her yet, but I definitely am feeling blessed to have connected.

Q: We know your annual conference, The Bliss Project is coming up in March! What do you love most about the weekend?
Lori: Bliss Project is one of the most fun things for me because it’s literally my book in action. I wanted to create a room where we’re not just talking about what we want, but we’re going, ‘OK here’s how we do it, now let’s try it.” So I facilitate exercises where we’re like, ‘Go try this. What worked? What didn’t work? Now let’s write about it. OK, now let’s visualize it.’ That’s why I’m obsessed with it because I feel like there’s so much action that actually happens from it and in it.

Q: We ask all our vinas this question: What does your ideal Sunday look like?
Lori: My ideal Sunday would definitely start outside, so I’d either be walking my dog with my husband or doing a run. And then if I could surf, that would be awesome if I’m gonna do something extra. I would love to go to lunch with friends, just a group of close friends. Honestly anything outside — if I could play volleyball or just lounge around and sit on the beach, that would be a really epic day.

Thanks, Lori! Vinas, stayed tuned from more from this awesome vina. Start connecting with your tribe now by joining communities and swiping right on Hey! VINA!

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